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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Genetic Control of Fusarium Mycotoxins to Enhance Food Safety

Location: Bacterial Foodborne Pathogens & Mycology Research Unit

Project Number: 5010-42000-042-00
Project Type: Appropriated

Start Date: Jan 19, 2011
End Date: Jan 18, 2016

Objective:
The overall goal of this research project is to enhance food safety by developing methods to reduce levels of trichothecenes and other mycotoxins that occur in grain crops as a result of infection by Fusarium graminearum (sexual stage, Gibberella zeae) and related trichothecene-producing species of Fusarium. FHB is a world-wide threat to grain producers and consumers, due to the loss in yield and to the presence of trichothecenes and other mycotoxins in the grain. As the world’s population continues to increase, the need to reduce mycotoxins in grain will increase. Development of methods to reduce mycotoxin contamination in grain will be enhanced through elucidation of the molecular genetic mechanisms that control mycotoxin production in F. graminearum and related fusaria, that control plant-fungal interactions, and that detoxify or otherwise modify mycotoxins. The objectives and proposed research are as follows: Objective 1: Identify and characterize mycotoxin detoxification genes as a mechanism to reduce/eliminate the toxins in grain-based food and feed; Objective 2: Determine the genetic bases and ecological significance of variation in types of trichothecene mycotoxins produced by Fusarium; Objective 3: Identify and characterize plant genes that affect biosynthesis of trichothecenes and other mycotoxins produced by Fusarium.

Approach:
With a growing world population, access to safe food for all consumers, both domestic and international, will continue to be a global priority. In recent years, the world has experienced an increase in mycotoxin contamination of grains due to climatic and agronomic changes that encourage fungal growth during cultivation. One approach to reduce mycotoxin contamination of food and feed is to prevent preharvest infection of crop plants by mycotoxin-producing fungi. An alternative approach is to modify mycotoxins present in crops in order to render them nontoxic and safe for consumption by humans and animals. Fusarium head blight (FHB) is one of the most important diseases of wheat and other cereal grains worldwide. It reduces yield and quality and results in contamination of grain with trichothecene mycotoxins. The disease is caused by Fusarium graminearum as well as other trichothecene-producing species of Fusarium. The primary goal of the proposed research is to reduce levels of trichothecenes and other mycotoxins through studies that reveal how plants, the fungus Fusarium, and mycotoxins interact during infection. We expect to identify novel genes that modify, detoxify, or otherwise confer resistance to mycotoxins and to study the physiological and molecular role of mycotoxin production on the ability of Fusarium to infect wheat and other crops. We also will examine the genetic bases and ecological significance of variation in types of mycotoxins produced by Fusarium. Knowledge from these studies will contribute to development of strategies to control FHB, thereby protecting our food supply from mycotoxins. This technology will ultimately benefit other scientists, small grain breeders, stakeholders in the food and feed industry, and regulatory agencies such as the Center for Disease Control, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Federal Grain Inspection Service, and Food Safety Inspection Service.

Last Modified: 12/19/2014
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